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‘Zoomer’ voters wield clout

In at least some key B.C. ridings, seniors may well decide the outcome of this election.

In Victoria, for example, residents 65 and older numbered over 62,000 in 2007. That’s roughly one-third of the Capital District’s total voting-age population.

In Metro Vancouver, last year’s population over 65 years old was about 392,000 — again, roughly one-third of the 1.2 million voters in the region.

Not only are they a high proportion of the electorate, seniors’ impact is enhanced by their high turnout on election day. In 2006, voters aged 55 to 64 had a 75.4 per cent turnout. It was 77.5 per cent for those 65 to 74, and three out of five of those over 75 voted as well.

By comparison, only about 44 per cent of the 18-24 cohort bothered to vote. Even those 25 to 34 couldn’t quite manage a 50 per cent turnout.

With clout like that, the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC (COSCO) wants more respect from parties. So does the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).

COSCO’s latest newsletter editorial slams the Harper government for rebuffing lobbying efforts by the National Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation, while helping the wealthy become wealthier and cutting corporate taxes by 50 billion dollars.

“The Harper government refused to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), which would protect seniors from steep increases in housing, food and energy costs" and "refused to enforce the Canada Health Act when it came to private clinics charging for services covered by the Act," charges the editorial.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons is damning and blasting all the parties while re-branding itself. As the first baby boomers hit 65, CARP is aggressively recruiting the 45+ kids born in the mid-1960s, and naming them the “Zoomers.”

Konstantin Bernaschek, CARP’s Vancouver representative, says the organization has sought out younger members — Zoomers — since media mogul Moses Znaimer was elected Executive Director a year ago.

An article on CARP’s website argues that politicians ignore the Zoomers at their peril: “Zoomers are the most politically engaged Canadians,” said Susan Eng, CARP’s vice president of Advocacy at a news conference.

After dismissing the “paternalistic, condescending” attitude of the political parties, the article sets out CARP’s five priorities:

• Improved health care: shorter wait times, national standards, and a national pharmacare program.

• Facilitate aging at home: Support family caregivers financially; ensure they can go back to their regular jobs.

• Eliminate mandatory retirement.

• Better planning for retirement security: A universal pension plan for Canadians who have no retirement savings or access to private pensions, plus bigger adjustments to OAS, CPP, and GIS for those on low incomes.

• Support older workers: Provide training, fight ageism in the workplace, and encourage phased retirement.

Read a more in-depth version of this story today’s Tyee.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

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